Southold police captain James Ginas to retire after 35 years on the force

A few weeks ahead of his upcoming retirement, Capt. James Ginas decided to give the Southold Police Department a parting gift: approximately 3,000 photographs he has snapped during the past 15 or so years, which have been uploaded to the department’s server.

“[Photography is] just another hobby of mine that I enjoy doing,” said Capt. Ginas, 61, of Peconic. “And I’ve over the years taken pictures at many events … parades, tall ships, PBA events, Easter egg hunts, Christmas parties … Some officers have looked at them and seen their kids now that are 16, 17 years old, that were a year-and-a-half old at a Christmas party, on Santa’s lap as a baby in diapers, and now they’re getting ready to go off to college.

“It’s fun to look back at that kind of history,” he added. “Digital gives us that ability where some of the older technology, film, it kind of gets lost, gets put away, where this is right there and readily available for people to look at.”

Photography is just the latest example of how the captain’s self-acquired technological prowess has benefited Southold PD throughout his 35-year career. The “gadget guy,” as a former chief called him, has helped improve interdepartmental communications with the Suffolk County Police Department and spearheaded Southold’s use of infrared-equipped drones to locate missing persons.

“I’m happy for him, but he’s going to be hard to replace,” said Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley. “He’s got a wealth of knowledge about our computer systems, our records management system, our computer-aided dispatching, radio service around town. He’s very good on the technical end, as well as all the other duties he has as far as organizing special events and everything that’s expected in his role. He’s going to be missed.”

James Ginas graduated from the academy in 1988 and served as a patrol officer for 13 years, during which he was also a member of the dive team. After he was promoted to sergeant in 2001, he started working with the Suffolk County Police Department to incorporate mobile data computers into Southold police vehicles so his department’s officers could be in ready contact with the county’s. His work to enhance interdepartmental communication and implement new technologies continued as he rose through the ranks, to lieutenant in 2011 and captain in 2022. 

The department’s top rank, chief, has many public-facing demands, which Capt. Ginas briefly experienced last year when he filled in as acting chief while Chief Flatley was on suspension. During that time, he also worked more closely with the members of the Southold Town Board.

“I really had a great experience working with Captain Ginas when he stepped in as acting chief,” Councilwoman Sarah Nappa said during the Town Board’s July 5 meeting. “He really stepped up and did the job really well.”

At the same meeting, Supervisor Scott Russell recounted his decades-long relationship with Capt. Ginas, which dates back to seventh grade. “It has been an absolute honor working alongside him for all the years that I have,” Mr. Russell said.

Councilman Brian Mealy thanked the captain for his service and highlighted his sweet tooth.

“Every time I visited Captain Ginas in his office, his wonderful wife had always prepared some kind of goodies, and we always giggled and I’d go, ‘What does Ms. Ginas have for you today?’ ” Mr. Mealy said. “Everybody else was being fit, resisting and not spiking their blood sugar, but he and I always indulged and had a cup of coffee.”

As captain, he was more directly involved with boots on the ground. His last month on the job has been particularly busy, as he had to ensure the numerous events surrounding the July 4th weekend had adequate numbers of police and traffic control officers to keep the public safe, close roads and set up detours and barricades.

For the last three years, Capt. Ginas has been working with the county sheriff’s department, as well as members of the Southold, Riverhead, Southampton and Suffolk County police departments, to transition to a singular records management system that, like the dispatch infrastructure, will be based out of Suffolk County police headquarters in Yaphank.

“We deal with the same district attorney’s office, and there’s always little variations in the way different departments do things,” he said. “This will hopefully bring all of [the departments’ processes] into current times with the need to exchange and share data and information and also standardize the way everybody does things.”

Capt. Ginas said the fruits of the consortium’s labor will bloom this fall. Chief Flatley explained that the new records management system will help cut back on the amount of time officers spend filing reports.

The captain, who officially retires July 18,  said he hopes his colleagues stay safe and the department continues to grow. He said officers and leaders will continue to adapt to “the changes in volume in our community, the changes in traffic and adapt to some of the new ways of society, new beliefs, new thoughts about police officers, how the camera has changed a lot of things. Some are good, some are bad. But I think [having] cameras everywhere has made [for] a better police officer in the long run, because they know that there’s that public eye out there and I think, at the end of the day, it’s a good thing.”

While he and his wife, Tina, have no immediate plans to kick off “the next chapter,” Capt. Ginas said he is “looking forward to traveling without the restrictions of work” and spending more time with his parents, Alec and Maureen Ginas, and his stepdaughter, Vanessa Morrow.

“It’s time,” he said. “I’m not saying I’m getting old, but I’m in my 60s. I’ve been here for 35 years and it’s time for me and my family to start enjoying a different part of life and spend more time with family.”

When asked if there was a particular day on the job that stands out in his memory, Capt. Ginas could not single out any one moment as the most consequential.

“It’s been my honor to work in this town and serve the people of this whole town,” he said. “I’ve seen people at their best and at their worst, and I’ve helped people as they were dying, and also been there when babies were born. So it’s run the whole gamut of things, tragedy and success and happiness. It’s definitely been an interesting career.”